Hello, hello, here is one of my annual timely reviews: this year’s Cairdeas release from Laphroaig. Not so timely if you actually were at Feis Ile in June—the annual Islay festival where all the distilleries release special whiskies (the Cairdeas is Laphroaig’s)—but pretty timely in the US: the Cairdeas only arrived in the country in late July and only became widely available in mid-August. As always, Laphroaig has released this without much hoopla and at a very reasonable price for a cask strength whisky: it can be found for less than $70—compare with pretty much every other Islay distillery’s offerings, most of which can only be found at auction at several times the original price.
Like 2017’s Cairdeas this one is a cask strength version of a whisky from their regular lineup and like last year’s it is a sherried whisky. 2017’s was the Quarter Cask and last year’s release was a Fino sherry finish. And this year we get a cask strength version of the Triple Wood, matured in a combination of ex-bourbon casks, quarter casks and oloroso sherry casks. The Triple Wood itself was originally a duty-free-only release that became part of the core lineup. I liked the original version of that and still have a bottle on my shelves (I should review it at some point); but it’s been a long time and I don’t really recall any specifics. Maybe I’ll open it before this bottle gets done and see how it compares. Here for now is the CS Cairdeas edition.
Laphroaig seems to have finally gone away from their abv convention for their Cairdeas releases. In recent years the year of release has been marked by the number after the decimal—2018’s was at 51.8%, 2017’s at 51.7% and so on. This one, however, is at a much higher 59.5%. I suppose the “9” may reflect the year. I guess we’ll see what happens next year—50.2?
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2019, Triple Wood CS (59.5%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet sherry notes along with salt and nuts, cereal and a big carbolic wave. That is to say, very good and very Laphroaig. As it sits, a fair bit of lemon peel comes through as well and the medicinal note goes from carbolic to inky; more oak too now. Water emphasizes the sweeter notes again pushing the medicinal complex and the oak back.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose but more salty than sweet and with the wood more apparent from the get-go. And it’s smokier here. Very drinkable at full strength. The wood becomes more talkative as it sits and there’s a pencil shavings quality to it. Okay, let’s see what water does. Well, it pushes the oak back here as well but it makes the smoke more tarry—I’ll take that exchange.
Finish: Long. The salt and the smoke and the iodine expand together along with some slightly bitter oak. The oak expands with each sip. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This started out really well on the nose but couldn’t quite sustain that on the palate or finish. Everything I liked about young sherried Laphroaig is here but it’s joined by a bit too much wood. That’s neat. Water improves things and suggests that the 48% strength of the regular Triple Wood is the optimal strength for this whisky.
Rating: 86 points. (Pulled up by water.)